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U.S. pulls presidential delegation from Paralympics in wake of Russia's actions in Ukraine

Obama, Putin locked in war games over Ukraine as the smaller country resolves its recent political crisis.

By JC Sevcik
U.S. pulls presidential delegation from Paralympics in wake of Russia's actions in Ukraine
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as he meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (not shown) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C.on Monday, March 3, 2014. Obama urged Netanyahu to "seize the moment" to make peace, saying time is running out to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. UPI/Andrew Harrer/Pool | License Photo

SEATTLE, March 3 (UPI) -- With tension mounting between the U.S. and Russia, the Olympics have been plagued by a power struggle between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama. As Russia invades Ukraine's Crimea region following months of political crisis, Obama boycotts the Paralympic Games.

“In addition to other measures we are taking in response to the situation in Ukraine, the United States will no longer send a Presidential Delegation to the upcoming Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi,” said White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden. “President Obama continues to strongly support all of the U.S. athletes who will participate in the Paralympics and wishes them great success in the Olympic competition."

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In response to Russia’s anti-gay law preventing the dissemination of pro-LGBT messages in advertising and the media, Obama sent a delegation of openly gay athletes to Sochi for the Olympics.

Putin thumbed his nose at this by having the controversial band Pussy Riot, some members of which are openly gay, beaten and arrested in Sochi during the Olympics. Obama declined to pull American athletes from the Games, preferring to maintain the decorum of the sporting festival. As Stephen Marche pointed out in Esquire, Putin used the opportunity to mock American values, indicating U.S. priorities lie in sports rather than human rights.

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Not since the Cold War has the political tension between the two nations been this palpable. In 1980 the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Games, and in 1984, Russia boycotted the Los Angeles Games. In 1993 the Olympic Truce was codified by a UN resolution.

The U.K. has canceled their Paralympic delegation as well, which was meant to include Prince Edward.

The U.S. and U.K. are now in talks about imposing economic sanctions on Russia, and the U.S. has suspended plans to participate in the G8 summit. Russia won’t be broadcasting the Oscars.

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Despite the Obama administration sending a message by pulling its delegation, America’s athletes are still participating.

“Today we were advised of the decision to not send a Presidential delegation to the Paralympic Winter Games," said U.S. Olympic Committee spokesperson, Patrick Sandusky in a statement. "As a sports organization, we will continue to fully support the amazing men and women that comprise Team USA at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, and we encourage all Americans to support our athletes by watching them compete on NBC, NBCSN and on TeamUSA.org.”

Sandusky added, “The safety and security of Team USA is our top priority. As is always the case, we are working with the U.S. Department of State, the local organizers and the relevant law enforcement agencies in an effort to ensure that our delegation and other Americans traveling to Sochi are safe.”

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Today, Obama condemned Russia’s military actions, publicly threatening economic sanctions and a withdrawal from the G8, but with a note of hope for diplomatic relations added, "what is also true is that over time this will be a costly proposition for Russia, and now is the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force."

[Wall street Journal] [Esquire] [Guardian]

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